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Asia Minute: Japan’s Pet Lovers Add to the Economic Kitty

MsSaraKelly / Flickr
MsSaraKelly / Flickr

A new drug is coming on the market in Japan that reflects a growing trend. It’s a treatment for a chronic disease, but not for humans. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Toray Industries received clearance from the Japanese government this week to make and sell a new drug to fight kidney disease….in cats.

Part of this is love—and part of this is money. Remember, this is the country where cat cafés got their start.

Walk into any bookstore and you are likely to find picture books of cats outnumber those of dogs.

And felines are still growing in popularity in Japan. Dogs...not so much.  Dogs still outnumber cats in the country by a slight margin, but the demographics are shifting.  The Japan Pet Food Association tracks these figures closely, and Bloomberg quotes the group’s numbers.

Over the past five years, ownership of dogs in Japan has fallen by 14 percent.  While the number of pet cats has grown, not by a lot, just one percent, but still—it’s growing.

The popularity of cats has led to a made-up word…one of many related to economics.

Money policies of the prime minister are called “Abenomics”….attention to gender buying habits led to the word “womenomics” and so the Japanese word for cat—“neko”-- comes in with “neko-nomics.”

Kansai University did a study estimating the economic impact of cat popularity in Japan putting the tab at roughly 20 billion dollars.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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